Bruce Ismay Unfairly treated


belle

Member
Jul 5, 2000
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Hello Happy 4th, I recently heard that the reason Bruce Ismay boarded a lifeboat to save his life, may have been this- this way he could take responsibility for the disaster, and he knew they would need someone to be a scapegoat. Do you believe that Ismay somehow knew that he would be the villain of this tragedy for the rest of his life? or do you believe that if he had known ,he would have stayed on the sinking ship. These Theories give us something to think about. I guess the obvious Question is- Bruce Ismay really the villain that everyone believes him to be.
 
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Karen Rock

Guest
Belle,
In my opinion Bruce Ismay did what most people would have done given the chance. He had the opportunity to get into a lifeboat and save his own life so he took it. He wasn't the captain, an officer or a crew member and while he did try to help with some of the boats he really didn't have any experience in being responsible for the physical safety of the passengers. As the Titanic was sinking I doubt whether he had any thoughts of the furore that was to come later, he was so overcome by the immense tragedy of the loss of life and his beloved ship. That's my opinion, anyway. As for being a villian, I don't see him as one but I believe he played his part in the tragedy as did Captain Smith, the officers, and the shipping company. I don't think one person can be totally to blame.
By the way, I think Dave is commenting that here in Australia we don't celebrate Independence Day (or the Queen of Norways birthday for that matter!!)
Cheers
Karen
 
Dec 4, 1998
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Oh, yes, how old is Her Royal Majesty The Dronning Sonja now? Do you know, Dave?
If what I saw on James Cameron's film and what Bruce Ismay did, I think that was rather cowardly, given the fact that he was the Managing Director and had the opportunity to help others, but there was room in Collapsible C and no one else was around the lifeboat. I have unenthusiastic feelings towards this issue, which is as deep a discussion as is Miss Minahan vs. Fifth Officer Lowe.
 
Dec 4, 1998
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Oh, yes, how old is Her Royal Majesty The Dronning Sonja now? Do you know, Dave?
If what I saw on James Cameron's film and what Bruce Ismay did, I think that was rather cowardly, given the fact that he was the Managing Director and had the opportunity to help others, but there was room in Collapsible C and no one else was around the lifeboat. I have unenthusiastic feelings towards this issue, which is as deep a discussion as is Miss Minahan vs. Fifth Officer Lowe.
 
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ML Rice

Guest
I personally feel that Mr. Ismay was a jerk (to use the simplest term). Nonetheless, he really did not do anything wrong by getting into the lifeboat since it seems that there was room & no one else around to fill the boat. The James Cameron film makes it seem as though he snuck into the boat. However, according to the american hearing on the disaster, the boat was available & he just got in since he could do no more to help. Definately a cowardly act. In fact, according to the transcript of the hearing, it seems that he really did not do anything wrong. He just made sure that he covered his butt. Guilty conscience I guess.
 

Paul Rogers

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Jun 1, 2000
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I believe the subject of Ismay jumping into a lifeboat has been covered on another thread. But anyway.....

It is not clear if Ismay WAS alone on the Boat Deck when he climbed into the lifeboat. Ismay maintained that no-one was around.

However, John Thayer wrote, (after Ismay's death):

"There was some disturbance in loading the last two forward starboard boats. A large crowd of men was pressing to get into them. No women were around as far as I could see. I saw Ismay, who had been assisting in the loading of the last boat, *push his way into it. It was really every man for himself.* (My emphasis.) Many of the crew and men from the stokehole were lined up, with apparently not a thought of attempting to get away without orders. Purser H.W.McElroy, as brave and as fine a man as ever lived, was standing up in the next to last boat loading it.....McElroy did not take a boat and was not saved."

I believe John Thayer's account as stated above; I can't imagine the Boat Deck being deserted around one of the last lifeboats to leave the Starboard side.

Whether Ismay should've taken his chance, I leave that to better men to judge. Who knows what any of us would've done in that situation? I don't feel Holy enough to judge another man's actions in those circumstances.

Regards,

Paul.
 
Mar 20, 1997
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Well, I'll add my twopence on the Ismay issue. I thought I read somewhere that he testified or otherwise stated that he had saved himself because he was convinced all the women and children had left. He did seem to make real attempts to ensure their safety, for instance his shock at seeing Edith Rosenbaum when she emerged on deck with her musical pig.

If he said this, I half agree with his statements. I do believe that he honestly thought all women and children IN FIRST CLASS had by then left the ship. He probably didn't see Caroline Brown and Edith Evans further aft and the rest of the handful of remaining First Class ladies who would save themselves were on the port side.

To me, with his upbringing and social attitudes, he probably saw that boat C had been filled with all emigrant women and children and so decided that surely it would be OK if he saved himself now, maybe rationalizing that the Third Class women in the boat with him were certainly the last ones on the ship and if not, well there were many reasons why he needn't trouble himself with the rest.

The only conclusion I can arrive for Ismay is that he didn't behave completely badly or completely heriocally but a very human mix of both. Keep in mind, he had ample opportunity to save himself in any of the previous starboard boats, for instance when he guided Edith Rosenbaum toward Boat 11. He did do what he could right to the last launchable starboard boat. Understandably, his post sinking life was one filled with shame and guilt.

My theory for what it's worth,
Arthur
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Just a note - don't know if this is any help one way or another, though.

I, too, have read that Ismay said he thought all the women had gone before he got into the boat (in the U S Hearings, I believe). To me, this mirrored another first class passenger's, Col. Archibald Gracie's, comments about when he saw a 'mass of humanity' come up from below - he also stated he thought all the women had gone as well.

Also at the hearings, Ismay did something, frankly, made me think much more about his actions that night. The foundation had been laid by both Second Officer Lightoller and another White Star employee (don't know if a barber constitutes being a member of the crew), Augustus Weikman, who both testified that Ismay was 'ordered into the lifeboat by the officer in charge of the boat' or words to that effect. Then when Alden Smith asked him if he WAS ordered into the collapsible, Ismay replied, "No." Here the man had the perfect, IMHO, opportunity for some sort of alibi or redemption, reclamation even...but he didn't take it. How easy it would've been to have said "Yes". If Ismay was a coward or whatever people paint him, at least he did not make it easy for himself by passing the blame to a officer (Wilde or Murdoch) who did not survive to tell his own story.

Again, I don't know if this is any help one way or another.

Best regards,
Cook
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Another bit of fluff for the Ismay talk here:

I do not think it was cowardly of Ismay to save his life own life. Afterall he had helped a great many women into the boats & even did his best to help out w/ the lowering of the boats (which got him "cussed" out at one point by 5th Officer Lowe - & probably rightly). However, if he had anything to do w/ the Titanic's barging across an iceberg-strewn ocean at full speed in the middle of the night (& I strongly suspect he did) then this is the true crux of his villainy. I think in that case it was much better for him to survive & see the full extent of his (& Smith's) arrogance. Somebody should have had to answer for it. Death might have been too easy a penalty if Ismay was indeed guilty of such gross negligence. So, knowing that he eventually did die a sad & supposedly drug-addicted recluse, it could be said he paid full price for his mistake. I do feel very sorry for him & think he was perhaps not the ogre he's been so often portrayed as. But, like it or not (& I don't), the fact of the ship's indefensibly high speed in dangerous waters can only be explained by laying the blame, equally apportioned, at the feet of Smith & Ismay.
 
Jun 4, 2000
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Hello Randy,

You wrote about JB Ismay: "So, knowing that he eventually did die a sad & supposedly drug-addicted recluse, it could be said he paid full price for his mistake"

Crikey! I have seen many charges laid at J Bruce Ismay's door, but will admit that 'supposed drug addict' is new to me. Where did you read/see/learn this?

I find this interesting as so many people seem to want to demonise Ismay, and then want him to have been miserable in latter life: 'just deserts' for surviving Titanic. All the reading I have done suggests that his life was not miserable at all.

Cheers,

Fiona
 

john

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Dec 18, 1996
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Gross Character Flaw:

In an age of flamboyant arrogance, Ismay and Smith were consistant with "Master of the Universe" syndrom. This can be said to be the real cause of the sinking of the titanic. Gross negligence indeed but I think that it can attributed more to Gross arrogance. Life lessons are learned the hard way, sadly many innocent people die because of it.

Civilwarmd.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Fiona, In response to your question re: Ismay. I thought it was well-known that Ismay was addicted to morphine. Isn't this in Lord's sequel to ANTR? Someone who knows better on this point ought really to correct me if this is untrue. The THS did a series of articles on Ismay back in the 80s - perhaps it's in there. I also think it's pretty well established that Ismay led a fairly quiet, if not strictly reclusive, existence after Titanic. It would take no stretch of the imagination to see Ismay as an unhappy person when it came to the subject of the disaster; I have read his wife refused to allow the topic brought up in his presence. And you have taken me all wrong as to my bitter feelings for Ismay. I have sympathy for him. I feel he was surely scapegoated during the Am. Inquiry & very much mistreated by the Am. press. That is not to say that I don't still feel he was fundamentally guilty. If it is true that he had a wonderfully happy, exciting, full life after the Titanic & did not die pitiful & defeated, I am glad for him. I am also very sad that, because of his & Smith's negligence, others were unable to have the same chance.
 
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Mac Smith

Guest
One thought in my head is that one cannot be critical of any man who took an empty seat while at the same time being critical of the boats going off with empty seats. (Not that anyone here did, but I just wanted to say that. Thank you. Mac Smith
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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Personally, I think Ismay got a rough deal. If he bore any blame for the affair it was blame shared by practically every ship owner using the North Atlantic. They all wrote down stringent safety instruction to their captains but still expected them to run their ships on time like railway trains. There's also the matter of passengers who squealed if a ship ran late. People also forget that Ismay did much to make up for his "sins". He gave a great deal for the relief of seamen and their dependents. He spent much on sending ships to collect bodies. You can say this was all PR, but the fact is that these things were done. As for him being saved, I invite his critics to hop into some seawater at below freezing and see if they like it.

For me, the real cad and bounder of the night was Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon. Safe in his boat, which held ten men and two women, he fussed over his seasick wife and let everybody else go to Davy Jones. Whatever became of nobless oblige? Then again, Sir Cosmo was an Olympian, Maybe he was trying to get on the IOC.
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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Personally, I think Ismay got a rough deal. If he bore any blame for the affair it was blame shared by practically every ship owner using the North Atlantic. They all wrote down stringent safety instruction to their captains but still expected them to run their ships on time like railway trains. There's also the matter of passengers who squealed if a ship ran late. People also forget that Ismay did much to make up for his "sins". He gave a great deal for the relief of seamen and their dependents. He spent much on sending ships to collect bodies. You can say this was all PR, but the fact is that these things were done. As for him being saved, I invite his critics to hop into some seawater at below freezing and see if they like it.

For me, the real cad and bounder of the night was Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon. Safe in his boat, which held ten men and two women, he fussed over his seasick wife and let everybody else go to Davy Jones. Whatever became of nobless oblige? Then again, Sir Cosmo was an Olympian, Maybe he was trying to get on the IOC.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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I'd like to respond to the criticism of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. A cad? Why so? He was only a passenger.He wasn't in charge - it wasn't his responsibility to direct the boat back. If the seaman in boat 1 had really wanted to go back & help the drowning they would/could/probably should have done so whether or not the Duff Gordons objected. And why are the Duff Gordons always singled out for blame and not other passengers who sat just as idly by? The DGs did nothing more nor less than the others except for being fortunate/unfortunate enough to have come away in an underloaded boat - which can't be blamed on them either. The officers (Murdoch, etc) in charge of loading & launching the boats made that call. If the DGs did anything wrong it was in offering money to the crew to help them out because it ended up looking pretty tacky once the press got wind of it - even though I feel sure it was a decent,honest gesture (just misguided). No, in my estimation there's no comparison between the Duff Gordons' & Ismay's behavior. Ismay was in a powerful position, one which effected many lives and so the decision he made to allow the ship to speed thru icy seas, even if other greedy ship owners would have done the same thing, was horrendous. No there's no comparing that & the actions, however questionable, of passengers stranded in a lifeboat they ought not to have had to be in the first place.
 
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Mac Smith

Guest
It should be noted that Sir Duff-Gordon offered the money to the seamen 20 minutes after the sinking, at a time when the cries of the dying were still audible (according to Duff-Gordon's own testimony at the British Inquiry, although he also testified that he did not hear the cries.)
 

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